Deep Space Nine: s05 e09 – The Ascent

Nice background

This is the only other episode I remember in advance, this and the cliffhanger ending to the season. I remembered Odo and Quark crashing onto a barren planet and having to cooperate to save each other, despite their position as enemies. I didn’t remember the circumstances, and I didn’t remember the B story, featuring Jake and Nog, nor that there had even been a B story. And having watched the episode again, I’m at a bit of a loss as to why I retained even a small part of this so long after, because apart from the gorgeous mountain scenery, I didn’t think much of the A story at all.

Let’s dispose of the B story first since, relatively humble as it was, it had the greater possibility for actual change. Nog has completed his first year at the Academy and is now doing a year’s Field Studies on DS9 (a rather short-sighted and implausible choice:  surely he’d have been better tested somewhere he wasn’t already familiar with? But let that pass.) Jake seizes this as his chance to leave home, room with his best friend, grow up.

Grow up in this context means the chance to turn himself back into a lazy, selfish, indolent kid. Jake’s a slob (he’s a teenager, it’s practically second nature). But Nog’s a serious Starfleet cadet, obsessed with duty, discipline, order and keeping the place clean, whilst Jake is almost willfully slobby to spite him. My first reaction was that he was OTT but then I remembered my own exposure to boys of that age…

The two quarrel and split up. Rom and Sisko commiserate over how each of their boys could learn from the other, so Sisko forces the pair to live together and, almost out of embarrassment, they start to compromise. It’s an unconvincingly quick lesson-to-be-learned, but it creates a set-up to which the show can come back as part of its structure.

The A story, however, carries little such prospect. Basically, Quark has to be delivered to a Grand Jury on a planet eight days distant, and an unpleasantly gloating Odo insists on delivering him personally. Now you know my opinion of Quark, but even with that, Odo’s triumphant sneers were off-putting.

They were also ill-founded. Odo’s assumption that Quark has been got at last, and is going down forever is completely wrong-headed: he’s a witness, not a defendant, in respect of the Orion Syndicate, who’ve planted a bomb on the runabout. Odo’s Ferengi ears pick up its hum in time for it to be transported off the vessel, but the runabout is still badly damaged by a secondary explosion, and crashes on the nearest planet, which is barren, lifeless and cold.

The crash had destroyed pretty near everything it’s possible to destroy whilst leaving the craft more or less intact. The mis-matched pair have no rations, one survival suit between them and a subspace transmitter that, to penetrate the planet’s atmosphere, they have to lug to the top of a very high (and spectacular) mountain.

It’s a basic throw-enemies-together-and-make-them-work-to-survive plot, with overtones of Beckett’s famous Waiting for Godot and and underlying exploration of what it means for Odo to be a solid, which we haven’t really seen much of yet this season. The pair set off for the top of the mountain, quarreling every step of the way, giving each other as good as they get.

And it gets a bit tedious a bit quickly. The problem is, this is a genuinely desperate situation, but neither character can get over their basic, and openly admitted hatred for one another. This goes especially for Odo, and even more so when, after a schoolyard shoving match, he falls and breaks his leg. Quark refuses to abandon him, makes a crude travois to drag him on, carries the subspace transmitter on his back and still Odo bitches and whines incessantly: way to motivate, Odo, smart!

Even at the last, when an utterly exhausted Quark has been provoked into going on alone, Odo cannot help but be snotty about him when recording what he thinks will be his final message. It’s petty and ungracious, and even after it’s interrupted by the transporter beaming him aboard the Defiant, Quark having succeeded, Odo comes over as preferring to have died rather than having to vary his opinion of Quark to give him the most infinitessimal amount of credit.

You can call it completely characteristic of Odo, you can point to it as an example of frozen thinking, unbending prejudice, you can even invoke the irony of Odo’s life depending on his worst enemy and suggest an underlying comic aspect to it all, but none of those elements worked for me this time round, and I have forgotten what effect they had on me twenty years ago. All I could see was two characters forced into a life and death situation in which they had to depend on each other and who couldn’t for a moment step outside of their mutual differences to recognise that. Especially the self-righteous Odo.

This effect was made all the more imposing by the episode’s possibly best scene. Stuck on the planet, Odo is still hounding Quark over his connection to the Orion Syndicate and why he’s not part of it. Apparently, the Syndicate charges a high membership fee, and in an orgy of speculation about how and why Quark didn’t pay it, Odo concludes that Quark couldn’t afford it, that for all his criminality, he just couldn’t get the money together. At which point, Quark spits back with the devastating rejoinder that Odo had spent ten years trying – and failing – to get the goods on a complete nobody, so who’s the bigger failure? We all know the answer to that.

But in the end it all meant nothing, because the status quo had to be maintained. Maybe this’ll get mentioned from time to time, Quark remind Odo of how he saved him. But a genuinely life-changing experience will change nothing, which is why I now shake my head at this episode, and if I last twenty more years will endeavour to remember it for the mountain and not the story.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e05 – The Assignment

The Birthday Party from Hell

I was dubious about the open to this episode, which was entirely trivial and personal for most of its length. Rom’s doing good work on Maintenance as part of the night shift but Quark is still determined to talk him down and out, Bashir has managed to kill Keiko’s precious plants by over-watering them whilst she’s on Bajor, doing a biological study in the Fire Caves. But Keiko don’t care, they’re only plants after all (warning signal). Because Keiko isn’t really Keiko. I mean, she is, physically, in every atom, but she’s been possessed, by a Pah (Pagh?)-Wraith, that can kill her in an instant. Unless, of course, Chief O’Brien follows her every instruction…

From those unprepossessing beginnings there followed quite a decent episode, as O’Brien reluctantly follows a course of quite comprehensive small-scale sabotage, with no idea what the purpose is, and no time to try to fight back. Every idea he has to try to overcome Wraith-Keiko takes too long to prevent her killing Keiko in retaliation (or threatening Molly), and Wraith-Keiko seems to have a supernatural ability to sense when O’Brien is about to crack and spill the beans.

Though it’s nice to see this attributed to Keiko’s consuming knowledge of her husband and how he’ll react.

The open also featured Rom, remember, and thankfully this is not the set-up for a B story. A technician’s illness sees the Ferengi temporarily upgraded to the swing-shift, which in turns allows Rom’s quite impressive mechanical skills, not to mention his speed, to O’Brien’s attention.

I’m afraid the Chief doesn’t exactly treat Rom well. First, he cons him into assisting the sabotage, under the guise of it being a secret assignment, then, when the work is spotted, he dobs Rom in to Odo, relying on the little Ferengi’s decency and loyalty to keep him silent.

And so it turns out to be Rom who provides the key to what is going on, which O’Brien has failed to see: their work is turning DS9 into a massive chroniton emitter, to be used against the Wormhole where it will kill all the Prophets: the Pah-Wraiths are False Prophets, driven from the Celestial Temple, and thirsty for revenge.

Which turns out to be all O’Brien needs to get a handle on things. He takes charge of things,steals a run about to fly Wraith-Keiko out towards the Wormhole but, just as the Wraith is about to celebrate success, directs the chroniton at her, killing the Wraith and freeing Keiko.

As for Rom, much offscreen explanations later, he gets his reward: permanent promotion to the day-shift. Quark is thrilled…

Ultimately, this was a simple and straightforward story. It served to introduce the Pah-Wraiths, who would become more prominent in future seasons. It was also quite a noticable ‘bottle’ story, its scenes confined to the station itself, or the familiar control room of a runabout, its guest stars being popular recurring characters. This was clearly to permit additional budget resources to be poured into the episode that would appear next (though it had actually been filmed before ‘The Assignment’ but scheduled after in light of the extensive post-production work required.

But beyond mentioning the well-ordered nice touches along the way, or the standard of acting from the two main guest stars (Rosalind Chao in particular was given the opportunity to shine),there’s not a lot to say about this week’s episode other than: well done.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e25 – Body Parts

This is not what this episode is about

As you know by now, there’s this thing between me and Quark-episodes. I just don’t respond to them, so it doesn’t really matter how good or otherwise they are, I do not have enough interest to grade them.

According to the programme itself, ”Body Parts’ shows how deep and complex a character Quark is, and examines him as to his moral principles and self-examination. According to me, Quark is about as deep as a dried-up puddle, the worst kind of comic relief character, i.e., he isn’t remotely funny, and the story was a complete miss.

For form’s sale, I’ll outline it. Quark is diagnosed as having a rare and fatal Ferenghi disease. In order to raise money to pay off his debts, he sells his vacuum-dessicated body for 500 bars of latinum, a secret purchase by his archenemy,  Brunt, FCA. But by the time Brunt arrives to claim his merchandise, Quark has found out he was misdiagnosed and isn’t dying after all. Brunt, who despises Quark for his un-Ferenghi ways, insists on his goods. Quark hires Garak to kill him (a ‘plot-twist’ that’s left dangling by the crappy and seriously twee ending) but decides he wants to live. So he breaks the contract, causing himself to undergo complete confiscation of assets, not only for himself but his entire family but, in an ending that ignores every implication of the plot in favour of tugging at your heart-strings in the hope that whilst sobbing into whatever strong drink you’re consuming just to get through this heap of tat your brain will be on vacation, all Quark’s ‘friends’ drop by to restock the entire bar with stuff they just happen to need to story somewhere convenient, leaving the Ferenghi businessman speechless at generosity of a kind that, as a determined Ferenghi businessman, he spits on with disgust.

I’m not even going to pick this apart. It’s a crappy idea centred on a crappy characters and written so as to avoid any of the logic of the situation it sets up. It diskards it.

There is a perfunctory B story, forced upon the series by events, namely Nana Visitor’s rapidly advancing pregnancy. Ms Visitor was now at the point where either Kira had to become pregnant or she wouldn’t be filmed below the neck. Fortuitously, Keiko O’Brien was pregnant, so ingeniously the pair and Bashir are off on a brief Gamma Quadrant mission, during which there’s an explosion that injures Keiko, enough so that to save the baby, the Doctor has to transplant him from Keiko’s womb to Kira’s.

From where, Bajoran pregnancies only lasting five months, it can’t be re-transplanted.

It’s a clever device to incorporate Ms Visitor’s real-life enceinment, though given that this is the penultimate episode of season 4, I was unsure as to its necessity. I assume the pregnancy would overlap the start of season 5, in which case it makes more sense. It’s also an intriguing situation, one pregnant (heh heh) with human possibilities, as Keiko suffers from losing her baby to another woman, but the notion deserved more space than that allotted to it as padding in an otherwise turgid affair.

Next week, another season finale. It has to be better than this snorer.

Deep Space Nine: s04 e16 – Bar Association

When in doubt, stick a dabo girl up front

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I really don’t go for Quark-centric episodes, which makes this week a bit of a problem. ‘Bar Associate’ was more palatable than these things usually are, however, which was because this was more of a Rom-centric episode, ably supported by Leeta the dabo girl (Chase Masterson with her cleavage well to the fore).

In some ways this was a heavily political episode. Like many others, I have the image of America as a land of individualism, the legacy of the Wild West, the man with the gun on his hip, making his own way. That makes America a land where the Union, workers coming together to negotiate collectively, even more of an anathema than it is in this country (more fool us). Most fictional depictions of American Unions paint them as barely one-step above criminal enterprises.

So it was out of the ordinary to see DS9 so firmly in favour of Unionism, at least in so far as it struck against Quark.

It’s the month of the Bajoran Ritual of Cleansing (which meant no Kira until a tiny cameo near the end). Nobody’s coming into the Bar, so Quark cuts the staff’s pay by a third, unilaterally. Rom’s already ill because Quark doesn’t allow him sick-leave to get his ear infection treated, and knows damn well that once profits resume their normal level, the pay won’t. After all, Ferengi is capitalism at its worst extreme.

So, after being prompted by Chief O’Brien, whose ancestors included a prominent Union leader (shot 32 times for his pains), Rom decides to form a Union and go on strike against Quark.

This is a very dangerous thing to do since it strikes directly at the heart of Ferengi culture and tradition, and indeed it leads to the appearance of Ferengi Commercial Authority Liquidator Brunt, with a mandate to stop this by any means necessary, fair or, preferably foul.

Foul includes trying to intimidate Rom by beating to death someone he cares about. No, not Leeta, though Brunt does spend a lot of time with his eyes lingering on her prominent bosom, but rather Quark himself. This prompts Quark to settle the strike: in return for Rom officially dissolving the Union, the staff will get all their demands settled. It’s a deal.

More importantly, Rom has stood up to his grasping, dictatorial, doctrinaire **** of a brother, and held his nerve. So he promptly quits his job as waiter and becomes a junior technician for Starfleet, moving their relationship on towards a more balanced level.

This may well be less irritating than most Quark stories, but it still didn’t engage my interest all that much. I’m afraid I’m just too prejudiced against him and the caricatural Ferengis to ever really get absorbed into one of their episodes. Important as this episode may have been to Rom’s progress, and to the series on a character level, it was just too lightweight for me, after so many good, heavy episodes.

The B story this week was hardly developed enough to be called a B story. It was nothing more than a couple of nudges along the way to developing the relationship between Worf and Dax, and a couple of nudges about how Worf is finding it hard to adjust to life on board DS9 as opposed to the Enterprise. He moves quarters into the Defiant and has a comeback to Dax’s suggestion that he’ll have to adapt to them in time by suggesting that they might have to adapt to him, and that’s about it.

And that’s about it.

Deep Space Nine: s04e08 – Little Green Men

Hot guest star. And Nog.
Hot guest star. And Nog.

The episode title filled me with apprehension, which the open rapidly converted into dread. I really do not like Quark as comic relief in small doses and the prospect of an entire episode based on Armin Shimerman being Quark to the nth degree is more than somewhat unpalatable. I just can’t be objective about such things, and what few good things there were in this week’s programme were pretty much lost on me.

Basically: Nog’s induction to Starfleet Academy is due and he’s going away, breaking up the easy-going relationship with Jake that’s sustained both boys for so long, a moment that was touching. Quark is still violently opposed to the idea, but volunteers to take Nog, and Rom, to Earth in his new personal space shuttle, the repayment of a debt by Cousin Gailo.

The ship is perfect in every respect but one: the controls have been sabotaged to stop it ever coming out of warp-drive. But Rom’s mechanical genius enables hiom to get round that, using the shipment of contraband Kemocite that Quark is smuggling. There’s an unfortunate side-effect: the ship is blasted back four hundred years in time, and crash-lands on Earth. At, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Roswell.

What followed was, if I could have gotten over my prejudice, a pretty good encapsulation of American Cold War paranoia, militarisation, suspicion, you name it. And the programme was almost gleeful in its swipes at such crude and primitive hu-mon traits like Atom Bombs and smoking (everybody was like chimneys!). The military was paranoid, the scientist thoughtful, his nurse/fiancee equally open-minded, as well as being as beautiful as they only ever were in B-movies (she was Megan Gallagher, who appeared in s02e04, and whom I clearly recognised, though I had to check to remind myself that she’d been a late-series cast member in Hill Street Blues).

But Quark was being Quark, and having no regard for the established timeline in plunging forward with the idea of advancing earth four hundred technological years overnight (it’s never that simple), and created a vast, Quadrant-wide Ferengi economic Empire with him at the top.

Fortunately, the Alsatian dog hanging around the Military base like he belonged turned out to be Odo, who’d stowed away, suspecting Quark of malfeasance. He ends up helping the Ferengis to escape, with the aid of the Farseeing Scientist and the Beautiful Fiancee, not to mention a handy A Bomb test and Rom’s mechanical genius.

So Quark has to sell the shuttle to pay for salvage and tickets home, Odo arrests him for smuggling, despite all the Kemocite having gone up in a blaze of glory, and despite the good bits, I heaved a sigh of relief. Next week’s episode has got to be better. I just don’t like Quark.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e25 – Facets


With the season’s end almost upon us, a lightweight, character-oriented episode prior to the big finish, and any potential cliffhanger, was to be expected, and we got this in a Jardzia-centric episode in which everyone’s favourite Trill goes through a ritual that enables her to meet and talk with, in chronological succession, each of the previous hosts of the symbiont, Dax.

It was an interesting notion but one that, for me personally, never quite came together.

There were several reasons for this, but the primary one is the same old reason, that Terry Farrell simply isn’t a good enough actress. Her range is not wide enough, her emotional depth is not deep enough. This is all but three full seasons in and she hasn’t developed enough to play roles that require more that competent functioning.

If that wasn’t enough, there was the imbalance of parts. Dax has had seven previous hosts. The technical process by which Jardzia ‘meets’ them is by having a Guardian extract each host’s memories and superimpose them on a willing host, for which Jardzia chose the seven people closest to her, i.e., the main cast, except for Jake Sisko, in whose place we got, improbably, the dabo girl, Leeta.

She got to contribute a pretty face and a supple body to the unnamed host who was a gymnist (that’s what she said, people not gymnast). The rest – the Major, the Chief, the Doctor, Quark – just did quick pantomime turns, enjoying the Mirror-Universe-esque chance to play against type for the sake of it.

But also these turns went by so fast and so briefly that it rather undermined the point, so that by the time we got to the heavier stuff, for which the episode had really been written, the active mind was detached from the storyline, and wasn’t being tempted back.

The first to get anything more than a sideshow was Juran Dax, accepted by Commander Sisko: Juran was a deranged murderer who tries to kill Jardzia. But this is just a prelude to the one Jardzia really is afraid of meeting, her immediate predecessor, Curzon, Sisko’s old buddy.

With good reason. Curzon originally failed the young Jardzia as a potential host but, when she determinedly reapplied, did not oppose her, making her the only Trill ever to be readmitted to the joining programme. Jardzia doesn’t know why, and is afraid of finding out the reason. Supposedly, she feels inferior to her predecessors (though the underwritten previous scenes make you wonder what she’s got to feel inferior to about the gymnist and the mother, not to meention the psycho!)

Really, it’s Curzon who’s the problem, and we can see a little of why that is when he ‘joins’ with Odo, who promptly turns Trill, with spots, and discernible features, and goes all roguish and rakish, eating, drinking, gambling, avoiding Jardzia’s questions, and ultimately deciding (with Odo’s agreement) to stay where he is.

This forces Jardzia to confront CurzonOdo and demand her memories back, at which point the air is cleared and the secret is out: Curzon fell in love with the young and beautiful Jardzia, still is in love. He chucked her out because it was inappropriate, allowed her back because he felt guilty, tells her she’s remarkable (not that she is, shes just a pretty woman with limited acting skills). The explanation did not convince at all.

I’ll pass over the close, with a deeply embarrassed Odo talking to a serene Jardzia and just mention the understory, which was once again slight, especially in terms of the time it was given, but which was more substantial in concept. This was about Nog taking, and failing, his preliminary exams for acceptance into Spacefleet Academy, except he only failed because Quark gimmicked the programme against him, leading to a long overdue furious confrontation with Rom, threatening to burn the bar down if Quark ever screwed around with Nog’s future like that again. Nog passed with the proper programme, of course.

So to the season climax, next week. I know nothing of it thus far except it’s title, ‘The Adversary’, from which I am expecting something very strong. Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e23 – Family Business

Three Ferengi
Three Ferengi

I was tempted this week to just say, it was about Quark, and leave it at that, especially after the last few weeks of strong stories. And I’m certainly not going to say much about it because I can’t pretend to be interested in the story, or its entirely predictable dynamics.

Basically, a Liquidator from the Ferengi Commercial Authority (FCA) walks into Quark’s and shuts the bar. Quark’s mother, Ishka (played under appallingly bad make-up by Andrea Martin) has broken Ferengi law by earning profit. She’s also taken to wearing clothes, speaking to men and never chewed her sons’ food for them. If Quark can’t get her to confess, she’ll be sold into indentured servitude and he will have to repay her profit.

At first, this is supposed to be a mere three bars of latinum – it’s the principle of the thing – but in reality, Ishka (or ‘Moogie’ as Rom insists on calling her, the Ferengi version of Mummy) has crated a massive business fortune, far greater than Quark’s.

He’s prepared to shop her until Rom defuses the situation by lying and claiming Ishka will split her profit with him 50/50, which changes everything. Rom bags heads together, Quark accepts that his business acumen comes from his mother, female though she might be, and the thing is wrapped up by Ishka agreeing to confess and relinquish a third of her profits, though the FCA believe it to be the lot.

Ho hum.

In another setting, I might have been able to pay attention to the story, which could have come over as a witty undermining of an horrendously repressive society that makes Saudi Arabia’s attitude to its women look open and welcoming but, to adapt the famous team talk given by Alex Ferguson prior to a visit from Spurs, ‘Lads, it’s Quark.’ I simply cannot take Ferengi stories seriously, and especially not Quark so this was a bust of a week for me, as will practically every other week where he is the focus.

Given that the rest of the cast have to be given something else to do, no matter how irrelevant they are to the main story, there was a brief and equally unimpressive understory carrying directly on from last week’s gesture at match-making by Jake. Captain Kasidy Yeats is on the station and Jake wants his dad to meet her. The entire station staff know this and are waiting for it to happen.

At least it wasn’t strung out unnecessarily long by Sisko digging his heels on. He does go to meet Kasidy, aka  Penny Johnson, whom I know better as Penny Johnson Gerrald, for her role as Sherry Palmer in the early, good, 24. They agree to meet for raktageno, but things aren’t going that well. Sisko clearly fancies her but she’s bored, until they seriously bond over, get this, baseball! Her younger brother plays it, on the opposite side of the Federation , and has sent her an audio-commentary of his team’s latest game, so she and Sisko go off to listen to it.

It’s really not much, is it? Then again, you’d have probably needed an understory of War and Peace dimensions to make this episode work for me, so why don’t we just give up on this one and let Xmas play through?

Deep Space Nine: s03 e14 – Heart of Stone

Ferengees bearing gifts
Ferengees bearing gifts

This is likely to end up being a perfunctory review, not out of any failings on the episode’s part but rather because I am going through some stuff at present, and I found one of the two stories in this latest episode hard to warm to. Unfortunately, it was the A-story.

‘Heart of Stone’ was another of those slightly formulaic twin-story episodes, where two different situations alternate for screen-time. The A-story featured Major Kira and Odo, returning from inspecting a far-flung Bajoran colony and distracted into chasing an apparent Maquis ship that had unsuccessfully attacked a freighter.

This led them to an unstable, seismic moon off a gas giant, whose over-ionised atmosphere basically buggered up all the Starfleet kit: tricorders, communicators, teleporter, the works. Major Kira falls into a trap where she steps into some kind of indestructible expanding crystal which, progressively, surrounds more and more of her body, whilst Odo desperately works to try to free her.

I was concerned about the Major’s attitude to begin with, given the loss of her love, Vedek Bariel, only last week. Sure, there was a fleeting reference to the Cardassians and the new treaty, but Kira hadn’t turned a hair over her lover’s death.

The story had Kira and Odo in a prolonged conversation. We already knew, from the recent Lwaxana Troi episode, that the Constable harbours an unrequited passion for the Major, and the escalating danger to the latter’s life forced a confession of this when Odo refused a direct order to abandon her and save herself.

Which drew, in return, a confession of love from the Major. After last week, I was all set to start breathing fire and brimstone, but the episode was a million times better than that. This reciprocal claim was the key to Odo working the whole thing out, the revelation that the Major, and the crystal that had by now all but swallowed her, was a lie from start to finish. It was the Changeling woman, the Founder from the Dominion, testing Odo over his ties to the ‘solids’, still confident that he will eventually break with them and return to his people.

What broke the spell for Odo was that he knew incontrovertibly that, despite her friendship, her concern and her affection for him being very real, Kira Nerys does not love him and never will.

It was used as the closing line. Kira was quizzing Odo as to what gave it away and he told her that the Founder had said something she never would. When Kira pressed him for details, Odo said it wasn’t important. Just a slip of the tongue.

Nothing wrong with the story. Probably well-made, written acted. Just not something my head could get into.

I had better luck with the B-story, the supposed comic relief with a heart of gold element. It was all very simple: Nog wants to join Starfleet, to be the first Feringee in Starfleet, and chose Sisko as his apprentice-master. All Sisko needed to do was write a letter of recommendation for Nog to join Starfleet Acadeny. Nobody took Nog seriously, despite his putting the hard lines in. Even Jake thought it was a trick being played on his Dad.

But Nog was deadly  serious. His father, Rom, is a mechanical genius but he is not a good Ferengee: he has no instinct for prophet. Neither does Nog. But he has his father’s aptitude, he is determined to work hard, if he is given the chance he can make for himself a life that won’t lead him to where his father stands, in thrall to his overbearing brother. Sisko agrees to write the letter.

Overall, I can’t really rate this episode on any kind of scale, it would be unfair to the series, let alone the episode if I were to try. We’ll see where I am a week from now: I may need to take a sabbatical.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e03 – The House of Quark

It’s going to be one of *those* kind of marriages

Aye. Well. Mm.

I can’t say I didn’t expect an immediate return to an essentially trivial story – it was about Quark, he’s not there for the serious stuff – though there were elements about this episode that demonstrated that Deep Space Nine wasn’t going to immediately run away from what it had started over the last three episodes.

What was good was that the effect of the Dominion threat carried over in continuity. Quark’s bar is virtually empty due to the lack of people coming to the station whilst it’s under threat, and Keiko O’Brien has shut the station school down because the only pupils she has left are Jake and Nog.

That latter is the subplot, which I personally found more interesting, and certainly more serious than Quark’s shenanigans at the front of the house.

Let me explain, as briefly as I can. The last customer left in the bar is a drunken, penniless Klingon named Kovak, who pulls a knife on Quark, but who is too drunk to stand and falls on his own knife, killing himself. Quark, seeing notoriety as a way of attracting morbid – but money-spending – customers, claims to have killed Koval in self-defence, in personal combat. Kovak, it transpires, was Head of a Klingon House.

Shortly after, Quark is ambushed by D’Gor, Kovak’s brother. He quickly scares the truth out of Quark but insists he maintain the lie since it is important that Kovak should have died an honourable death. Quark’s next visitor is Grilka, Kovak’s widow. She also learns the truth, but she knocks him out and kidnaps him back to Kronos, where the first thing she does once Quark is revived is to marry him.

This move is to try to preserve the House’s existence. Kovak left no male heir and, under Klingon custom, the House is to be dissolved. Were there ‘unusual circumstances’, a special dispensation might be obtained from the Council to allow Grilka to lead the House, but an honourable death in personal combat.

Should the House be dissolved, its lands, properties etc. shall go to Kovak’s brother, D’Gor, who has been a sworn enemy for many years and is the House’s principal creditor, Kovak having been a wastrel. By marrying Kovak’s killer, Grilka can save the House, even if it has to be led by a short, cowardly, stinking Ferenghi. It becomes the House of Quark.

D’Gor then throws a spanner into the wors by producing the only witness to the truth of Kovak’s death, Quark’s brother, Rom.

Our comic relief Ferenghi does have some talents however, especially when it comes to money, and it doesn’t take long to establish that D’Gor has been waging a most UnKlingon-like economic war of the House of Kovak, essentially defrauding it into its current parlous state. Unfortunately, he can’t get the Council to see this and the accusation enables D’Gor to challenge Quark to personal combat.

Needless to say, Quark wishes to have it away upon his toes in dead of night, and Grilka contemptuously washes her hands of him. Nevertheless, he turns up on time, complete with ba’tleth. It’s Quark’s story, he’s going to be the hero of it, what do you expect? But what he does is to throw his weapon away and offer himself defencelessly to D’Rog. It won’t be a duel, but an execution, a ridiculously one-sided personal combat rendered completely without honour by Quark taking the gamble of stripping it down to what it truly is. It’s not D’Gor but the Council that he’s out to con, and when D’Gor takes the bait and raises his ba’tleth, the Council rises in disgust at it, and he is ostracised.

Chancellor Gowron recognises the ‘unusual circumstances’ and gives the House to Grilka, who promptly thanks Quark by giving him his requested divorce – and a serious snog as soon as he’s no longer her husband, a sight I shall be spending much of the next week trying to scrub from my mind. Actually, she did kiss him as the conclusion to the wedding ceremony, but she did spit rather disgustedly after doing to, which made it a lot more acceptable.

In and of itself, the story was an interesting one, especially for its revelation of Klingon  social customs and mores, and Quark’s method of overcoming D’Gor was both ingenious and entirely logical, but – and this is my problem, not yours – come on, I mean, it’s Quark.

I don’t dislike Quark, but I do find him excessive. He’s a comic relief character who, at any given time, exists at a forty-five degree angle to everything about him. Because Armin Shimerman is in the cast, Quark is continually wedged into stories that have nothing to do with him, and to which he cannot contribute anything except a derailment of the plot. That means that putting him at the centre of a story that’s meant to be in any way serious gives the story a mountain to climb to gain any credibility. Quark is a silly and trivial character who makes everything around him silly and trivial by association.

Much more important to me was the subplot. Keiko had closed the school down due to  circumstances beyond her control, which left her with nothing to do and feeling that intently. She was putting a very brace face on it, but Miles O’Brien knew, and it hurt him deeply that the woman he loved was unhappy.

Everyone sympathised and there were some good and decent lines that I took to heart, the more so for their being kept very simple, but I was unhappy with the solution,which was to send Keiko back to her profession/vocation as a botanist, on a Bajoran expedition that would be away for six months. So that’s the last we’ll see of Rosalind Chao this season.

It seemed like a counter-intuitive approach to resolving an issue that had the potential to undermine an otherwise very happy marriage – and the Chief is the only member of the cast who is married, or who is in a relationship at all (I am not counting Major Kira’s occasional shags with Vedek Bariel unless and until we learn that last season’s escapade hasn’t hindered their sexual relationship). Instead of a solution, it seemed more like a cheap way of writing out a character they had no real idea how to serve.

Still, considering the episode as a whole, it was well-constructed and performed, and Mary Kay Adams gave it plenty of wellie as Grilka, but it was the evidence that the incipient Dominion War was going to have an ongoing effect that I most welcomed. May this continue.

Deep Space Nine: s02e08 – “Necessary Evil”

Katherine Moffat

For a third week, we have what was essentially a solo shot, focusing on one of the cast who hasn’t had any substantial development so far. This week, it’s Odo, the station’s security officer, and to give us some flavour to the character, ‘Necessary Evil’ took the form of an extended flashback, to five years previously, when Bajor was still under Occupation, and the Cardassians ran DS9.

This was neatly engineered by having a Bajoran widow, Mrs Vaatrik (elegantly played by Katharine Moffat) hire Quark for the clandestine recovery of a concealed package, left behind on the station after the late Mr Vaatrik was killed. But Mrs Vaatrik doesn’t trust Quark and sends an assassin to retrieve what turns out to be a list of eight Bajoran names. Obviously, Quark wasn’t just going to retrieve the box and not look in it, and for his inquisitiveness, he got a shot to the chest that took him out of the rest of the episode (don’t worry, he lived).

There was some mildly amusing silliness with Rom, slowly realising that he was about to inherit the Bar, but that was never going to go anywhere: Quark was just the McGuffin, a means to get Odo investigating a crime related to the unsolved Vatric murder.

Back we went, to DS9 five years ago, a dark and dingy place, highlighted by a blue lighting scheme, shot with a slight soft focus that suggested how bad a place this was to be without having to be too overt in its brutality. Odo is nothing but the Shapeshifter, an amusement, a freak, and someone deeply ashamed of the parlour tricks he’s been forced to play to survive.

But Vaatrik , of the chemical shop, has been murdered, and Gul Dukat wants Odo to investigate. Odo’s observant, Bajorans will talk to him where they won’t to the Cardassians, except under torture, and besides, the Cardassian approach will be to gran ten random Bajorans and kill them until someone confesses: Dukat ostensibly prefers something more subtle. That in itself should be a clue.

So Odo questions the unweeping widow Vaatrik , who alleges that her departed spouse was having an affair with a fit young woman newly arrived at the station. I should have been prepared for this, but the best I can claim is to not be surprised when the Bajoran Miss turned out to be Kira Nerys (with her hair worn long, in a pony tail, and looking as fetching as ever.)

It’s the first meeting of this pair, and whilst Odo detects relatively easily that the future-Major is lying, the real reason is not that she killed Vaatrik but rather that she was sabotaging the station. Odo is professing to be neutral, to be interested in Justice only: cold, logical, blind, without friendship or love. But Kira knows that sides must be taken. Odo is working for Gul Dukat, whether he admits it or not, but he will soon have to consciously choose which side he fights for.

And choose he does, under Dukat’s very eyes. Kira is not the killer: she can go.

In the present day, the list turns out to be one of Bajoran collaborators, who suddenly start paying lots of moolah to Mrs V. Odo is able without difficulty to find proof, and wrap everybody up, though Mrs Vaatrik continues to deny killing her husband all those years ago.

It’s then that the only truth left forces itself upon the Constable. If Vaatrik was also a collaborator, then finally a motive for his murder emerges. It would make perfect sense to a member of the Bajoran Underground…

The episode ends on a downbeat, quiet and serious scene. Kira admits to her necessary evil, unplanned but forced upon her. Odo queries why she hasn’t trusted him with the truth before. Kira explains that she has wanted to many times, but was afraid of it damaging their friendship. Can Odo still trust her as he has done until now?  The answer, for once unafraid of ambiguity or change, is silence.

I’d like to hope that this moment does not go unrecognised, that it does indeed have after-effects, plays out in succeeding episodes. I’m not holding my breath overmuch. We’re in the wrong era. Maybe it gets referred to in a later series, I don’t know, or maybe I’m tarring DS9 too much with the brush of its time. Let’s see.